Today’s first reading is Romans 1.16-25. Verse 17 of this chapter is one of the most significant verses in the history of Christian theology. It reads as follows:
For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith” (NRSV).
I am not going to say a whole lot about the verse in general except that in the context of a site focused on the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, the question emerges: “As it is written” where? Many people are familiar with the saying the “The righteous one/the just one will live by faith”; however, many people do not know where the statement originates. It originates in Habakkuk 2.4, which reads as follows:
Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith (NRSV).
Anyone who wants to properly understand Romans 1.17 should first begin by trying to understand Habakkuk 2.4, though the original context of Old Testament passages does not always play very clearly into the thought of New Testament authors (e.g. Matthew 2.23).
Let me just venture a few thoughts from the context of Habakkuk 2.4. In this text, “the righteous person” is placed in antithetical parallelism, or direct contrast, with the proud person. The proud person is further described in verse 5 as being deceived by wealth and never being satisfied. Being righteous in this context then would mean something along the lines of being humble and content. Regardless of how one understands the term often phrase “live by their faith,” we do get a picture of what someone who is doing this should look like.